October 10, 2003 11:00 pm
DISALLOWED: Motorized waterfowl decoys like this one can no longer be used in Oregon during duck and goose seasons. Dave Larson, manager of the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area, demonstrates how one operates. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).
DISALLOWED: Motorized waterfowl decoys like this one can no longer be used in Oregon during duck and goose seasons. Dave Larson, manager of the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area, demonstrates how one operates. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Wind power is set to replace battery power at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area this weekend.

Duck and goose hunting season opens on Saturday in Northeast Oregon. Hunters coming after dawn won't have to worry about forgetting their batteries because they won't need them. For the first time in years no motorized decoys will be allowed. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted earlier to ban the use of motorized decoys beginning with this hunting season. Motorized decoys are being prohibited throughout the state because it was feared they were giving hunters an unfair advantage.

The most popular motorized decoys have blades that spin continuously, giving the impression of flapping wings from a distance. The only decoys with spinning wings one will see this weekend at Ladd Marsh are wind-driven ones.

Richard Procsal of La Grande has not used motorized decoys and is not upset that motorized decoys have been banned.

"I think they provide hunters an unfair advantage,'' Procsal said.

He said they are particularly unfair when other hunters are using regular decoys. The motorized decoys draw ducks away from hunters using non-motorized decoys.

Some hunters who used motorized decoys with spinning wings may be switching to wind-driven models. Winds of 5-7 mph are needed for their wings to spin, Procsal said.

Early Saturday will be a good time to use these decoys because winds of 10 to 20 mph are forecast for Union County in the morning.

Oregon not alone

Oregon is following the lead of other states in banning motorized decoys. The use of motorized or electronic waterfowl decoys has been banned or significantly restricted in other states including Washington, California, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

In addition to wind-powered decoys, regular floating models are among the non-motorized versions hunters will again be using. Procsal suggests that hunters place their farthest decoy 30 to 35 yards away from them. This is the farthest distance hunters can effectively fire at ducks. Thus when a duck flies past the first decoy a hunter knows that the bird is within firing range.

In addition to decoys. hunters of course again will again be drawing in ducks and geese with calls. Procsal advises people not to get carried away when calling in ducks. He said ducks get suspicious when someone calls continuously.

"Don't call too much. Ducks get call shy,'' Procsal said.

Hunters should call just enough to draw attention to their decoys.

Reasons for optimism

The first phase of duck hunting season for most of Northeast Oregon runs through Nov. 2. The second portion runs from Nov. 5 to Jan. 25, 2004.

The first part of goose season in Northeast Oregon runs through Nov. 2 and the second phase begins Nov. 12 and ends Jan. 25, 2004.

Hunters should check their hunting synopsis for details. The Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is open to hunting during the season on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Hunters should check their synopsis for information on which holidays Ladd Marsh is open.

Larson said the outlook for hunting season is good because duck and goose population levels are strong. The reason is that several late-winter storms hit nesting areas in Canada this year.

The outlook for hunting seasons is good because populations are up, Larson said. One reason is that late winter storms filled many potholes in Canada, creating more nesting areas for ducks and geese.

Waterfowl hunting conditions will improve even more if cold fall weather hits Canada. This will encourage waterfowl to begin their southern migration early, Larson said.

At Ladd Marsh hunters will have access to 10 new portable blinds during much of the the season. They are made of tubes and camouflage and were obtained with funds from the ODFW. Five of the blinds are available now and the other five will be available later in the season.

Twenty permanent steel and concrete blinds will be added at Ladd Marsh over the next year. The blinds are being obtained with funds donated by the Oregon Duck Hunters Association. One of the blinds is in place but it will not used by hunters because there is no water around it due to dry fall conditions.